A Tradition of Freshness
When you’ve been around for more than a hundred years, you make friends and contacts. That’s the case for Portland, Oregon’s venerable fresh fish restaurant, Jake’s Famous Crawfish.
Jake’s, as it’s called by locals, is an institution that’s fed the powerful, the rich and famous, and the common man (and woman) for decades. The walls are lined with photos of presidents, senators, actors, and other celebrities. Any night of the week, the restaurant’s bar and four dining rooms are packed. It’s a testament to the eatery’s commitment to serving the finest, freshest fish available. For Jake’s, local, fresh, and sustainable isn’t just a trend, it’s been a way of life for more than a century.
“We feel we have a tradition here,” says General Manager John Underhill, who’s worked at the restaurant for more
than a dozen years. “We’re stewards of that tradition.
People who come in here want the same quality and even the same dish they got here in 1950.”
Even the waitstaff, who all wear white chef-style jackets and black slacks, are long-timers. Many have worked at Jake’s for 30 years. The newest addition has served here for seven.
Jake’s Executive Chef, Billy Hahn, has led the restaurant’s kitchen for 12 years and he’s worked for McCormick and Schmick’s, the parent company, for nearly 20.
That kind of longevity and continuity give the restaurant contacts with all the best sources for seafood, farm-fresh products, and other ingredients. “We know all the boat captains by name,” says Chef Hahn. “We have local farmers who come to our door saying, it’s time for asparagus or strawberries or other products. We know them and we buy from them. It’s all local.”
That commitment to local and fresh is also evident in their daily menu’s “fresh list,” which lists the fresh fish and shellfish of the day and where it’s from. It may be Pacific Salmon from British Columbia; Crawfish from Lake Billy Chinook; Dungeness Crab from Newport, Oregon; Halibut Cheeks from Seward, Alaska; Mahi Mahi from Hawaii; Goose Point Oysters from Washington; or Steelhead from the Columbia River. All of it is fresh daily and as local as possible.
Jake’s signature crawfish is a great example of their fresh approach. Many restaurants fly crawfish in from Louisiana. Not Jake’s. They use only the local crawfish species,
Pacifastacus or the “signal” crawfish, “Our crawfish come from sandy-bottomed Lake Billy Chinook,” says Chef Hahn. “The ones from Louisiana come from rivers and backwaters that have a lot more silt and mud. Our crawfish are very clean-tasting and have no muddy flavor at all.”
Because the crawfish from the lake are seasonal (early summer to fall), they simply don’t serve the namesake dish during other times of the year. “People know when the crawfish are in,” says Underhill. “They wait for it and start calling around crawfish time.”
The restaurant serves a crawfish boil, with crawfish, red potatoes, corn on the cob, and spicy Paul Prudhomme
natural flavor and sweetness of the crawfish without making it spicy. They also serve the crawfish chilled as an appetizer and crawfish étoufée, a rich nutty roux made with chunks of sweet crawfish meat.
Real bottom line: If you’re looking for a fish restaurant that serves the freshest seafood that’s cooked to perfection and served by seasoned professional waitstaff, book your table at Jake’s Famous Crawfish today. —BH
Jake’s Famous Crawfish
401 SW 12th Ave (12th and Stark St.)